Online abuse – Vatican expert calls out big tech

Big tech online abuse

A leading expert in child protection says big tech companies are reluctant to use profits to prevent online abuse and the exploitation of minors.

Speaking to Crux, German Jesuit Father Hans Zollner said advancing developments in technology, are “allowing new forms of abuse online to take root.”

“The internet and new technologies represent fertile ground in which the sexual abuse and harm of minors and young children finds new forms of expression. This includes sexting, sextortion, grooming, and live distant child abuse through the exchange, or sending, receiving, sharing, and distribution of images and sexually explicit video content,” Zollner said.

This kind of abuse has increased “dramatically” during the coronavirus pandemic.

With much of the world increasingly dependent on the internet and digital platforms to function, the number of people accessing websites that offer child sexual abuse material “have been much higher since the onset of the pandemic.”

“Thus, those who work in the tech industry have an even bigger civil duty to educate themselves about abuse and how children are more vulnerable than ever before due to technology,” he said.

Zollner said closer collaboration between child protection experts and tech industry leaders is “crucial” to prevention, and he stressed the need for clear safeguards on websites or platforms where children can be groomed.

At the close of a 2017 World Congress on Child Dignity in the Digital Age, Pope Francis called on those involved in politics, research, and law enforcement, as well as representatives of international organizations and religious leaders, to work more closely in online abuse prevention.

He stressed the need for big tech companies to help prevent online abuse, “to invest a substantial amount of the money they earn in creating more safety measures for children.”

“Unfortunately, the resistance to do so is strong, and that’s why we need to push this concern and do our part to educate, build awareness, and provide safeguarding tools,” Zollner said.


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